I just don’t understand why we hold people in the spotlight to such high standards as to have no human failings. Yes, I’m talking about the Letterman “scandal.” It really shouldn’t be a scandal at all. It’s ridiculous that anyone should be able to attempt to bribe someone with information about a man’s philandering and that such philandering, when brought out in public, should cause the downfall of the man’s career.
Think of it on the level of the Average Everyday Joe. Maybe Joe is your friend. Maybe Mrs. Everyday Joe is your friend. When Joe has cheated on Mrs. Joe, and it becomes public in the sense that everyone in your circle of friends knows, you feel sympathy–not personal outrage–for the couple and their troubles. It is not a scandal; it’s a friend who has made a painful mistake. Joe’s job is not in jeapardy because he violated his marriage vows. I am sure Joe feels really bad for himself and the trouble he’s wrought to his wife and his family. Or maybe Joe is selfish and doesn’t feel guilty. But at the end of the day, Joe still has his dignity. He doesn’t lose all his friends over it. Maybe he and his wife get divorced. Maybe some of his wife’s friends think he’s a scum bag. But, please. No one gets their feathers in a ruffle and demands that Joe be stripped of everything he owns, or lose his job, for a mistake. Or even a series of mistakes.
Cheating on your spouse is not a crime. Except, perhaps, to the parties involved. Or, if you’re religious, you might feel a cheater has committed some grave sin. Either way, it’s really no one else’s business. If you hold celebrity in an exulted status as a hero, you’ve got your own issues. I personally feel that no one should hold anyone on so high a pedestal that they forget the person is only human and thus vulnerable to human failing. I have a lot of celebrities whom I hold in high regard myself; however, I do not think that they are perfect and I don’t hold them to standards none of us can promise we can maintain. (Because, yes, I’ve cheated on a boyfriend or two in the past. I’m not completely innocent.)
It doesn’t matter what I think of Letterman personally; it doesn’t matter what you think of him personally. He is not someone we’re paying to teach us morality. He’s an entertainer, for god sakes. What entertainer do you know who has not cheated on his/her spouse? What man, when presented with lots of willing and eager-to-please women–more women than a normal man ever has access to–is not tempted by the fruit thrown at his feet? (Except Bono from U2, who appears to love his wife greatly, but even I–a megafan–don’t expect him to be perfect. I’ve been secretly holding my breath for some day when I learn that that Bono and his wife are estranged or getting divorced; I hold my breath because I would like to see one or two celebrities stay with their spouses.)
I just get so annoyed when we hold famous people to higher standards than we hold ourselves, our family members, our neighbors. With people we know, we’re usually more willing to allow them their human frailties and forgive them. I think in this day and age, it’s ridiculous to call a philandering man’s exploits a scandal. I was annoyed with it during Clinton’s presidency (hey, a president getting sex is a happy man, right? A happy man can concentrate on the country. Who am I to judge that?). I’m annoyed with all the uproar about Letterman right now.
The only time I take joy in the discovery of a man’s philandering is when it’s some (male) anti-gay rights advocate who is discovered to be having sex with a man. Now that, my friends, is a scandal because it’s someone getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar to which he swore and made great noise against. But a heterosexual man having sex with young girls in his employ– who were probably all too willing anyway since some women are attracted to the power of celebrity? Yawn. Old news.
I applaud Letterman for taking the whole thing gracefully, even though he was pressured to do so by attempted extortion. It’s much better to openly admit you have done wrong and make light of it than to let something leak out slowly as you struggle to suppress it. I’ve learned this in my own way in life–not from illicit sexual exploits, but from other events in which I attempted to cover up a wrong I committed instead of admitting to it right away. The thing you seek to hide always comes out eventually and when it does, the fallout is much stronger and more harsh than it would have been had you admitted to it in the first place. I think Letterman recognized this when the ex-boyfriend of one of his former lovers attempted to extort him. Had he given into the bribe, it probably would have still come out eventually, which would have made Letterman look worse.